W.R. Grace and Libby, Mont., to be Focus of Two-Part "Nightline" Series

W.R. Grace & Co. and the town of Libby, Mont., may be household names to those in the occupational safety and health community, but many Americans may be getting their first introduction to the subject tonight on ABC's "Nightline."

"Nightline" plans to air a two-part series on the story of W.R. Grace's former Libby, Mont., vermiculite mine and the plight of former W.R. Grace employees and residents of Libby beginning tonight at 11:30 p.m. EST.

Columbia, Md.-based W.R. Grace, according to a Feb. 7 indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Montana, allegedly put former workers and residents in the Libby area at risk of asbestos-related diseases through its vermiculite mining and processing there.

Approximately 1,200 residents in the Libby area 70 percent of whom did not work at the Libby Mine have asbestos-related health abnormalities, according to the indictment. Since the indictment was handed down, concerns have intensified that W.R. Grace workers and customers throughout the country were exposed to asbestos-tainted vermiculite shipped from the Libby mine.

W.R. Grace, which operated a vermiculite mine in Libby from 1963 to 1990, "categorically denies" the federal grand jury charges levied against the company and seven of its executives.

"Nightline" senior producer Phil Maravilla, in an e-mail newsletter plugging tonight's program which is titled "A Killer in Town" compares the plight of Libby residents and workers to industrial accidents such as Three-Mile Island, Bhopal and Chernobyl.

"Never heard of Libby?" Maravilla asks in the e-mail. "A postcard of a town, surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges, a wide open sky and prize-winning trout fishing, Libby is an outdoor paradise, and should be any travel or real estate agent's dream. Should be. Because Libby is not it was poisoned with asbestos. The U.S. attorney for Montana has begun a criminal indictment of W. R. Grace corporation for its mining operations in Libby."

According to Maravilla, in tonight's program "Nightline" correspondent Dave Marash will introduce viewers to the "courageous Libby activists who have taken on W.R. Grace" and tomorrow night's program will tackle the growing concern that asbestos-tainted vermiculite "could be in your home, your town, even if you live far from Libby."

For more information on the Feb. 7 indictment of W.R. Grace, read "Grand Jury Indictment: W.R. Grace Lied About Dangers of Asbestos Exposure" on Occuptional Hazards.com.

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